Indira Gandhi International Airport (IATA: DEL, ICAO: VIDP) serves as the primary civilian aviation hub for the National Capital Region of Delhi, India. The airport, spread over an area of 5,106 acres (2,066 ha), is situated in Palam, 15 km (9.3 mi) south-west of the New Delhi railway station and 16 km (9.9 mi) from New Delhi city centre. Named after Indira Gandhi, a former Prime Minister of India, it is the busiest airport in the country in terms of passenger traffic since 2009. It is the second busiest airport in the country in terms of cargo traffic after Mumbai. With the commencement of operations at Terminal 3 in 2010, it became India's and South Asia's largest aviation hub, with a current capacity of handling more than 40 million passengers. The planned expansion program will increase the airport's capacity to handle 100 million passengers by 2030. In 2014, the airport handled a total of 39.752 million passengers, registering a 8.4% growth in traffic over the previous year and became the 12th busiest airports in Asia. As of 2015, the airport currently is the 26th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.
In 2010, Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) was conferred the fourth best airport award in the world in the 15–25 million category, and Best Improved Airport in the Asia-Pacific Region by Airports Council International. The airport was rated as the Best airport in the world in the 25–40 million passengers category in 2015, by Airports Council International. Delhi Airport was awarded The Best Airport in Central Asia and Best Airport Staff in Central Asia at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2015.
Safdarjung Airport was built in 1930 and was the main airport for Delhi until 1962. Due to increasing passenger traffic at Safdarjung, civilian operations were moved to Palam Airport (later renamed to IGIA) in 1962. Palam Airport had been built during World War II as RAF Station Palam and after the British left, it served as an Air Force Station for the Indian Air Force. Palam Airport had a peak capacity of around 1,300 passengers per hour. Owing to an increase in air traffic in the 1970s, an additional terminal with nearly four times the area of the old Palam terminal was constructed. With the inauguration of a new international terminal (Terminal 2), on 2 May 1986, the airport was renamed as Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA).
On 31 January 2006, the aviation minister Praful Patel announced that the empowered Group of Ministers have agreed to sell the management-rights of Delhi Airport to the DIAL consortium and the Mumbai airport to the GVK Group. On 2 May 2006, the management of Delhi and Mumbai airports were handed over to the private consortia. Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) is a consortium of the GMR Group (54%), Fraport (10%) and Malaysia Airports (10%), and the Airports Authority of India retains a 26% stake. 9 years later in May 2015, Malaysia Airports chose it exit from DIAL venture and sold its entire 10% stake to majority share holder GMR Infra for $79 million. Following this GMR Group's stake at DIAL increased to 64%. Earlier GMR also indicated that it was interested in buying out the 10% stake of Fraport.
The old domestic airport (Palam) is known as Terminal 1 and handles domestic flights for all budget airlines. The terminal is divided into three separate buildings – 1A (dedicated terminal for state-run Air India, no longer used), 1B (used by all private commercial airlines, now closed and demolished), the Domestic Arrival Terminal 1C and the newly constructed departure terminal 1D (now used by all domestic low-cost airlines (GoAir, IndiGo, SpiceJet). There is also a separate Technical Area for VVIP passengers. Additionally, there is a separate terminal for Hajj flights.
Significant growth in Indian aviation industry led to a major increase in passenger traffic. The capacity of Terminal 1 is estimated to be 7.15 million passengers per annum (mppa). Actual throughput for 2005/06 was an estimated 10.4 million passengers. Including the now-closed international terminal (Terminal 2), the airport had a total capacity of 12.5 million passengers per year, whereas the total passenger traffic in 2006/07 was 16.5 million passengers per year In 2008, total passenger count at the airport reached 23.97 million.
Delhi Airport has three near-parallel runways: runway 11/29, 4,430 m × 60 m (14,530 ft × 200 ft) with CAT IIIB instrument landing system (ILS) on both sides, runway 10/28, 3,810 m × 46 m (12,500 ft × 151 ft), and an auxiliary runway 09/27, 2,813 m × 45 m (9,229 ft × 148 ft). In addition to Allama Iqbal International Airport of Lahore, Pakistan, Runway 10/28 and runway 11/29 of Delhi Airport are the only airports in South Asia to have been equipped with the CAT III-B ILS. In the winter of 2005 there were a record number of disruptions at Delhi airport due to fog/smog. Since then some domestic airlines have trained their pilots to operate under CAT-II conditions of a minimum 350 m (1,150 ft) visibility. On 31 March 2006, IGI became the first Indian airport to operate two runways simultaneously following a test run involving a SpiceJet plane landing on runway 28 and a Jet Airways plane taking off from runway 27 at the same time.
The initially proposed method of simultaneous takeoffs caused several near misses over the west side of the airport where the centrelines of runways 10/28 and 9/27 intersect. The runway use method was changed to segregate dependent mode from 25 December 2007, which was a few days after the deciding near miss involving an Airbus A330-200 of Qatar Airways and an Indigo A320 aircraft. The new method involved use of runway 28 for all departures and runway 27 for all arrivals. This method which was more streamlined was followed full-time till 24 September 2008.
On 21 August 2008, the airport inaugurated its 3rd runway 11/29 costing ₹10 billion and 4,430 m (14,534 ft) long. The runway has one of the world's longest paved threshold displacements of 1,460 m (4,790 ft). This, in turn decreases the available landing length on runway 29 to 2,970 m (9,744 ft). The purpose of this large threshold displacement is primarily to reduce noise generated by landing aircraft over nearby localities. The runway increases the airport's capacity to handle 85 flights from the previous 54–60 flights per hour. The new runway was opened for commercial operations on 25 September 2008. At present, runways 11/29 and 10/28 operate in mixed mode while runway 09/27 is used as a taxiway. During peak hours, all three runways will be operated simultaneously to reduce the stress on the airport's main runways 10/28 and 11/29.
IGI Airport serves as a major hub or a focus destination for several Indian carriers including Air India, Air India Regional, IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, GoAir and Vistara. Approximately 80 airlines serve this airport. At present there are two active scheduled passenger terminals, a dedicated Hajj terminal and a cargo terminal.
Terminal 1 is currently used by low cost carriers IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir.
Terminal 1A was built in the early 1990s to cater to Indian Airlines. It had to be refurbished after a fire gutted the interiors and DIAL significantly upgraded the terminal. It was used by Air India Regional until it moved to the new Terminal 3 on 11 November 2010. The terminal is now closed and is expected to be torn down on the completion of newer terminals.
Terminal 1C is used only for domestic arrivals. The terminal has been upgraded with a new expanded greeting area and a larger luggage reclaim area with 8 belts.
Terminal 1D is the newly built domestic departure terminal with a total floor space of 35,000 m2 (380,000 sq ft) and has a capacity to handle 10 million passengers per year. Terminal 1D commenced operations on 15 April 2009. It has 72 Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE) enabled check-in counters, 16 self check-in counters, and 16 security channels.
Designed by HOK working in consultation with Mott MacDonald, the new Terminal 3 is a two-tier building spread over an area of 20 acres (8.1 ha), with the lower floor being the arrivals area, and the upper floor being a departures area. This terminal has 168 check-in counters, 78 aerobridges at 48 contact stands, 54 parking bays, 95 immigration counters, 15 X-ray screening areas, for less waiting times, duty-free shops, and other features. This new terminal was timed to be completed for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which was held in Delhi and is connected to Delhi by an eight-lane Delhi Gurgaon Expressway and the Delhi Metro. The terminal was officially inaugurated on 3 July 2010. All international airlines shifted their operations to the new terminal in late July 2010 and all full service domestic carriers in November 2010. The arrival area is equipped with 14 baggage carousels. T3 has India's first automated parking management and guidance system in a multi level car park, which comprises 7 levels and a capacity of 4,300 cars. Terminal 3 forms the first phase of the airport expansion which tentatively includes the construction of additional passenger & cargo terminals (Terminal 4, 5 & 6).
Terminals 4, 5 and 6 will be built at a later stage, which will be triggered by growth in traffic, and once completed, all international flights will move to these three new terminals, while Terminal 3 will then solely be used for handling domestic air traffic. A new cargo handling building is also planned. According to Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), these new terminals will increase the airport's annual passenger volume capacity to 100 million.
The nearest railway station is Palam railway station which is 18 km from New Delhi railway station. Several passenger trains runs regularly between these stations. Shahabad Mohammadpur (SMDP)is equally close.
14 June 1972, Japan Airlines Flight 471 crashed outside of Palam Airport, killing 82 of 87 occupants; ten of eleven crew members and 72 of 76 passengers died, as did three people on the ground.
31 May 1973, Indian Airlines Flight 440 crashed while on approach to Palam Airport, killing 48 of the 65 passengers and crew on board.
On 7 May 1990, an Air India Boeing 747 flying on the London-Delhi-Mumbai route and carrying 215 people (195 passengers and 20 crew) touched down at Indira Gandhi International Airport after a flight from London Heathrow Airport. On application of reverse thrust, a failure of the no. 1 engine pylon to wing attachment caused this engine to tilt nose down. Hot exhaust gases caused a fire on the left wing. There were no casualties but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair and written off.